Children will begin receiving free school meals next term, Welsh Government confirms

Children in Wales will begin receiving free school meals from the beginning of the next term, the Welsh Government has revealed. The policy, which was confirmed in March this year after an initial agreement was made over the free meals in Plaid Cymru and Labour’s cooperation agreement in December 2021, will begin with reception children and will be rolled out to all children at primary school age and under by 2024.

On Monday the Welsh Government said that alongside Plaid it was “committed to implementing the scheme as quickly as possible in response to the rising cost of living crisis”. Local authorities will effectively take on the role of providing the meals, funded by the Welsh Government.

£ 225m has been committed to secure its delivery over the next three years. £ 25m of that fund has gone to improving school kitchen facilities.

READ MORE: Parents say they can’t afford to send their children to school, headteachers warn

The Welsh Government said they are confident that most reception-aged children will be receiving free meals every day in school at the beginning of the next term, and by April 2023 the majority of children in years one and two will also start receiving free school meals.

The policy has been criticized by Welsh Conservatives because it will be universally available and not targeted at the most vulnerable families. Some accused the government of therefore providing nutritious free food to children of wealthy families in Wales. You can stay updated with everything going on around education in Wales by signing up to our WalesMatters newsletter here.

Minister for Education and Welsh Language Jeremy Miles said more needed to be done quickly to help children suffering relative income poverty in Wales. He thanked local authorities for “working with us so constructively over the past few months and making this a reality”.

“Given the pressure so many families are under with the increases in cost of living we are absolutely committed to taking these practical measures to support children and young people,” he said.

“Younger children are more likely to be living in relative income poverty so we are starting with a decent free school meal for children in reception from September with most children in year one and two also getting free school meals by next April.”

Plaid’s Sian Gwenllian said the intervention would “make a real difference.” “Not only in terms of tackling child hunger and child poverty, but to progress our wider goals of local good production and supporting local economies.

“Our overriding objective is to reach as many pupils as quickly as possible. [It] will be life changing for many and a significant help to families. ”

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